Earlier this month, the G20 Ministers responsible for labour and employment met to discuss how international cooperation can foster ‘inclusive growth and a global economy that works for everyone’, highlighting a critical role for business in achieving this.
The meeting – held in Germany and attended by an Australian delegation led by the Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills, the Hon. Karen Andrews MP – produced a Ministerial Declaration, Towards an Inclusive Future: Shaping the World of Work. The Declaration reaffirms the G20’s commitment to work with business and other sectors to ensure ‘sustainable, balanced and inclusive economic growth, social inclusion and employment’, and to build on key international frameworks including the Sustainable Development Goals. (Goal 8 specifically focuses on decent work and economic growth.)
Technology, digitalisation, globalisation and demographic transitions are fundamentally altering how the economy functions. Demand for skilled labour continues to increase, but often those marginalised in society are left behind in economic development. Two of the G20’s three priorities focus on building inclusive economies by advancing gender equality in the workforce and integrating regular migrants and refugees.
The third priority is to promote decent work and transparency in global supply chains. Global supply chains account for more than 450 million jobs worldwide. Given the G20 accounts for 80 per cent of worldwide trade, the Declaration recognises there is significant responsibility on G20 nations, and the businesses that operate within them, to provide decent work and protect rights that underpin a fair and inclusive global economy.
The G20 emphasised the need for business to uphold international labour standards to ensure fair market competition, stating:
“We underline the responsibility of business in regard [to protecting fundamental labour rights] and recognise that they require a global level playing field. We emphasise that violations of decent work and fundamental principles and rights at work cannot be part of that competition.”
To assist business to uphold labour rights, the G20 has reaffirmed its commitment to key frameworks that promote due diligence and transparency in global supply chains, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.
The importance of providing access to remedy was also highlighted, with particular reference to non-judicial grievance mechanisms and national focal points to address ‘deficits in global supply chains including poor occupational health and safety, low pay, excessive overtime‘.
The Ministerial Declaration regularly referred to the SDG Agenda as a framework for collaboration, and called for open ‘social dialogue’ and ‘intensified exchange[s] and cooperation with L20 and B20 meetings’ to tackle challenges facing labour markets.
The G20 reinforced the need for government to communicate clearly with business on expectations around responsible business conduct, particularly noting the need to support SMEs. The Australian Government is already taking action in this space, having committed to national consultations on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, and its inquiry into establishing a Modern Slavery Act.
Read the Ministerial Declaration from the G20 Labour and Employment meeting.